Medal of Honor
Reviewed by Beth Hannan Rimmels
I have to give Ted Turner credit for putting his money where his mouth is. Before founding TNT, he complained about the lack of Westerns and military history programming, fact or fiction. So when TNT started, both became priorities, leading to acclaimed projects like Gettysburg, Rough Riders, Buffalo Soldiers and others. So its not surprising that TNT regularly unveils some new special or movie in conjunction with Veterans Day. This years project is the one-hour special, Medal of Honor.
The highest award that can be presented to a member of the American military, it began during the Civil War. Since that time, 3,429 have been awarded, a small fraction considering the millions of people who have served. Yet the Medal of Honor has an unusual, if simple criteria. As the special explains, it is given for acts of such bravery that had the person decided against doing it, no one could blame them. A simple yet impossible standard to live up to. About half of the medals awarded have been posthumous.
While the special deals somewhat with the history of the medal and mentions briefly some outstanding examples among even this rarified company, Medal of Honor primarily focuses on the circumstances of six soldiers who served in World War II, Korea, Vietnam or Somalia.
Each story is dramatic enough to warrant a full-fledged movie. The soldiers, if still alive, and their colleagues explain the circumstances that led to their extraordinary actions while dramatic recreations are shown. The cases range from Clarence Sasser, a medic in Vietnam who worked to save the men in his unit despite being severely wounded himself, to James Stockdale, who endured seven years of torture in the infamous "Hanoi Hilton." The special manages to balance the truth without being unduly horrific while still allowing the mens bravery to shine through.
Its easy to think of the military as a monolithic organization. But Medal of Honor shows that its not only made up of individuals making split-second decisions, but people of courage and incredible willpower. Its a perfect Veterans Day tribute to our men and women in arms.
Medal of Honor airs 8 and 11 p.m. (EST) Nov. 7; 11:30 p.m. Nov. 11 and 2:30 a.m. (EST) Nov. 12.
Review © 1999 Beth Hannan Rimmels. Medal of Honor and accompanying stills © 1999 TNT/GRB Entertainment.